I don't have a whole lot of time to spend on myself lately, but there is one body part I've been thinking a lot about these last few weeks: my heart. That's because I've been working for Woman's Day magazine, women's heart health is a core focus of theirs and February is American Heart Month. Even if you're in your 20s and 30s, this is something you want to be thinking about.
Woman's Day recently hosted a panel in collaboration with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute on ways we can partner up to help women live stronger and longer. Five leaders representing medical, nonprofit, faith-based, business and research organizations spoke. "Community to me has meant women coming together for one understanding: to take time for ourselves to be healthy," noted Toni Carey, cofounder of the national running club Black Girls RUN! Amen to that.
A graphic storyteller was drawing furiously as the panel took place (check out the video and the Woman's Day post about the panel). And yes, I'd like her job, too!
A few key take-aways from the morning:
• Heart disease may be the number one killer of women but with knowledge, education and care, the majority of it can be prevented.
• Complications during pregnancy can identify you as being at increased risk for future cardiovascular disease. These include gaining excess weight, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. If you've experienced any of them, be proactive and discuss it with your doctor. In my experience (as in, the three times I've had kids), not once has heart health ever come up—and I had a risk factor with my last pregnancy.
• Get a partner to help you stay healthy; exercise with a friend, sister or mom, and encourage each other to eat well. Note: If you rope in your husband, he might urge you to eat salad every single time he spots you in the kitchen and question your late-night-sitting-on-the-couch-in-front-of-the-TV cookie consumption. Just saying.
• Changing your diet may be one of the hardest things to do, but even small tweaks can have big payoffs. Here I am, resisting mindless nibbling on crackers as I type. [Pats self on back.]
• In older women, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing may be diagnosed as asthma—but they are signs of heart issues.
Here's a simple risk quiz to take. I hope you don't have any risk factors but if you do, please discuss them with your doctor. I will be.